Frequently Asked Questions

PROGRAMS, SERVICES, & CLIENTS

DESK serves dinner Monday through Thursday, 5:30-6:45 pm, and Sunday, 4:30-5:45 pm.  Our Food Pantry is open on Wednesday, 2:00-3:00 pm.  The full schedule is available here.
DESK is located in the basement of the Center Church Parish House at 311 Temple Street in New Haven, right behind the New Haven Public Library.  Parking is on-street.

A full list and description of our Programs and Services are available here.
Breakfast is served Monday through Friday, 7:30-10:00 am at Sunrise Cafe, located in the Church of St. Paul and St. James at the corner of Olive and Chapel Street (57 Olive Street).

Lunch is served Monday-Tuesday and Thursday-Friday, 11:30 am – 1:30 pm at Community Soup Kitchen, located in Christ Church (84 Broadway).

For more information, including a searchable list of pantries, shelters, housing programs, and other social services, visit https://www.211ct.org/ or simply dial 211.

Nope.  We ask as few questions as possible so as to maintain a “low barrier of entry to services” (meaning that we want as few obstacles or stumbling blocks as possible between the people we serve and the services we provide).  For the Evening Meals program, we ask for some basic demographic information once per month, but guests can always opt out.  For the Food Pantry program, clients must fill out some very short paperwork once per year.  There are no restrictions based on residency status, citizenship, or age, and DESK does not require “proof” of need.
Unfortunately, we do not have any onsite parking.  The most convenient parking downtown is on-street, metered parking.
All onsite programs are carried out in the basement at 311 Temple Street, which, unfortunately, is not wheelchair-accessible.  However, if anyone cannot make it down the stairs, our staff and volunteers will gladly bring pantry groceries outside during the Pantry program hours, or to-go meals during dinner hours.
DESK’s Evening Meals program serves between 40,000 and 50,000 meals per year.  As a matter of policy, we do not ask for identification, nor do we require that our guests check-in; therefore we cannot be accurate for our “unduplicated” count of individuals.  That said, we estimate that the program serves about 1,700 unique individuals each year.

DESK’s Food Pantry program serves about 1,200 individuals per year.  Across all programs, DESK serves approximately 2,300 unique individuals annually.

All over, but primarily New Haven proper.  Every neighborhood in the city is represented, and our programs draw many from the outlying suburbs, and up to Wallingford and Waterbury.
At DESK, we avoid describing our clients and guests as “hungry”—not only because of stigma, but also because it oversimplifies a complicated problem.  All of the people we serve are experiencing some level of poverty, and many are experiencing homelessness.  The reasons are varied, but often include unemployment or underemployment, mental health issues, substance abuse, histories of trauma, and all combinations thereof.  There is no single problem associated with “hunger” and there is no single solution.
The technical definition of food insecurity is a state in which someone does not have reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food; or that they do not know where their next meal will come from.

VOLUNTEERING

Great question!  Visit our Volunteer page to find out!
Our volunteers shifts start in the afternoon and go into the evening, and vary somewhat depending on the day of the week.  A full schedule is available on our SignUp.com page.
Greater New Haven is home to some really big hearts, and for that reason we never seem to have enough volunteer spots!  We post our volunteer shifts on our SignUp.com page at least a few months out, and they go very quickly; it can often be difficult to get spot (especially for groups) within a few weeks or even months.  But, spots often open up on short notice (sometimes within hours of a shift!), so feel free to check back frequently.

We also encourage you to check in with our partnering organizations to see what sort of volunteer needs they have available.

All first-time volunteers must be at least 12-years of age, and those who are under 16 must come with an adult.  If someone has volunteered with DESK before and is familiar with our programs and the atmosphere, s/he can contact us to inquire about bringing volunteers who are under 12-years of age.

DESK is not a “dry facility,” meaning that we do not turn people away if they are intoxicated (though of course use of alcohol or drugs on the premises is strictly prohibited).  In addition, many of those who come to us are suffering from a variety of mental health disorders.  All this requires sensitivity and maturity on the part of the volunteers.  Generally, we say that DESK is a “PG-13 settling.”  While there are occasionally volunteers under 12-years of age, this typically happens after a conversation with the parents, who should be prepared to have difficult conversations on the way home.

We try to limit our group sizes to no more than six volunteers.  We have found that larger groups tend be a bit insular, and that the volunteer experience is richer when people are given the opportunity to interact with clients and guests more readily.  If you would like to schedule a group larger than six, please contact us.
Yes.  We ask all volunteers to log in and log out when they arrive and leave, so that we have a clear idea of how many volunteers we have, how many hours they’re putting in, and who was in the building at any given time.  The log-system also helps us to track the hours for those who are doing court-ordered or school-credit community service.  When you have finished your community service hours, please contact us to get a letter attesting to your hours, and please allow three business days for an electronic copy.  (If you need a hard-copy of the letter, please let us know and allow for seven business days.)
Yes and no. Please feel free to take pictures of yourself and other volunteers, our staff, kitchen prep, or clean-up (and yes, go ahead and post and tag us on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter!).

When it comes to our clients and guests, that’s a different story.  At DESK, we are very protective of our clients’ privacy, and we take this obligation seriously.  While we work hard to dispel myths and stereotypes that plague people who access food assistance, stigmas persist.  In the absence of written permission (Media Release), it is incumbent upon all of us (staff, volunteers, and others) to protect those whose lives may be adversely affected by public testament to their acceptance of the services we offer.

Unfortunately, DESK does not have any onsite parking.  Street parking (metered) is available throughout Downtown, and there is a garage on Elm Street between Church and Orange.  Also, DESK strongly urges alternative modes of transportation, including bicycling, walking from the outlying neighborhoods, or taking the bus.  (The New Haven Green is the hub of the local bus system, making it relatively easy to take the bus to DESK.)
DESK is very fortunate to have over 1,500 unique volunteers work with us annually!
Yes! DESK typically hosts one intern during the fall, one in the spring, and one in the summer.  Occasionally, our internship program hosts two interns.  Most of our interns are undergraduate or graduate students in social work, public health, nutrition nonprofit/business management, or marketing.  For more information, please visit our Internships & Career Opportunities page.

DONATIONS

Yes, but we have specific needs (and a few guidelines).  Check out our Donation page for more information. Please note that we do not accept most prepared food donations, primarily out of health and safety concerns.  We work with a few select “verified vendors,” with whom we have clear guidelines as to how, where, and by whom the food has been prepared, as well as how it has been transported.  If you have questions about this policy, please contact us via email.
DESK accepts and distributes winter gear between November and March only.  Check out our Donation page for more information.
DESK accepts toiletries and other items on occasion, depending on storage capacity and need.  Check out our Donation page for more information.
Yes, we do.  Donors who make financial contributions will receive an acknowledgement letter (or email).  Those who donate food or other items can request a receipt by contacting us.
We accept donations by credit card online, or by check (made out to “Downtown Evening Soup Kitchen” and sent to P.O. Box 1478, New Haven, CT 06506-1478).  For more information, please visit our Donation page.
Yes, of course!  Visit our Donations page to learn about the food, clothing, and toiletry items we collect.  Be sure to contact us so we can help coordinate, and feel free to use our brochure to share a little about what we do and the people we serve.

ORGANIZATIONAL

DESK enjoys very broad support from across the Greater New Haven community and beyond.  We receive most of our funding from private individuals, foundations, local businesses, and community organizations (such as social, religious, and civic groups).  DESK receives some public funding through New Haven’s Community Development Block Grant program and FEMA’s Emergency Food and Shelter Program.  DESK also receives significant support from the Community Foundation for Greater New Haven, Center Church on the Green, and Yale Hospitality.
Our food sources fluctuate throughout the year, based largely on the season. For example, we receive a lot of fresh produce in the summer from working farms, like Common Ground, and smaller gardens, like the Whitney Center. On average though, about half of our food comes from the Connecticut Food Bank, the bulk of which is provided through federal and state programs. About a third of our food comes as donations from retailers, like Stop & Shop, Target, and Big Y (all in North Haven), ShopRite in Wallingford, and Elm City Market in New Haven. We also receive weekly donations from Chabaso bakery. The remainder of our food is donated through food drives and individuals (like you!).
DESK was founded in 1987.  Read more about our history here.
No.  Although DESK has a long history of support from churches, synagogues, mosques, and other communities of faith in and around New Haven, we are not officially affiliated with any one.
No, DESK is an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.  Center Church, however, is our most committed supporter, providing our physical space and utilities free-of-charge.
No, DESK is independent of any national or regional affiliation.  Locally, DESK is a member organization of the Connecticut Food Bank and a participating affiliate of the local Food Access Working Group, a subcommittee of New Haven’s Food Policy Council.  Our program, services, and administration, however, remain entirely autonomous.
Despite our great impact and reach, DESK remains a small, grassroots social service organization, with a budget below $250,000 per year.
DESK employs five passionate, dedicated, skilled, and trained staff members.  More information on our staff is available here.
The members of DESK’s Board of Directors are listed here.
Yes, as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, all of DESK’s annual tax filings (IRS Form 990) are public record.  Our most recent IRS Forms 990 are available on our profile page at givegreater.org.
Everything here actually is a “frequently asked” question!